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Ashville tops Pisgah 69-50 to reach region title game


Ashville’s Nikki Moss passes while Pisgah’s Heather Boman defends during Thursday’s Northeast Regional semifinal game. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times)


JACKSONVILLE — It wasn’t easy, Ashville just made it look that way.

The No. 8 Bulldogs cruised to a 69-50 win over fourth-ranked Pisgah on Thursday in the Class 3A Northeast Regional girls high school basketball tournament.

The Bulldogs (27-3) made the Eagles’ press look like swiss cheese, finding holes to pass through and down the court to get easy baskets. It was the key to victory for Ashville, who will face No. 7 Holly Pond in the regional title game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Jacksonville State University.

“I don’t think it was easy. I think it was our girls were able to do it because they were strong enough to get it done,” Ashville coach Dale Beason said. “We done about as good of a job passing down the floor that we’ve had at Ashville in a long time.”

The Bulldogs used a mix of size and speed to break the press. It was a deadly combination for coach Carey Ellison’s Pisgah (21-7) squad.

“The combination made it to where they would either throw it over the top or just outrun us,” Ellison said. “I didn’t really want to press, then we got behind and had to start creating a better pace for us. All their big girls could run the floor for them. Gotta give them credit, they are a very good team.”

Sophomore forward Nikki Moss benefited from a lot of the easy opportunities created by Ashville’s ability to break the press. She scored 21 points and also showed a sweet touch from outside, hitting on 3 of 6 opportunities from behind the line.

“Today I started out kind of nervous, but once I got on the floor it all just went out,” Moss said. “I think we played really well as a team.”

Senior Lakeivia Looney really had the team clicking at the point guard position.

She scored 17 points on 3 of 4 shooting from the 3-point line and added four assists and four rebounds.

“To me, Lakeivia has been the key for our season the way she’s taken over the point,” Beason said.

But perhaps the biggest game turned in Thursday was Autumn Swearengin’s. The 6-foot forward scored 14 points, pulled down 16 rebounds, blocked five shots and altered numerous others for the Bulldogs. Anika Bothwell, another 6-foot forward for Ashville, had 11 points and nine rebounds.

They made the going tough inside for Pisgah.

“The size deficit was immense,” Ellison said. “We knew we were going to struggle with them being that big. They had everything it takes (to win), especially with the size difference. I realized it was big, but I didn’t know it was that much until about mid-first quarter. And I thought, ‘My goodness, they’re tall. They’re tall everywhere, not just in the post.”

Added Pisgah’s Hope Houser, “It was like driving into towers.”

Lily Womack scored 20 points to lead Pisgah, which shot just 24 percent (18 of 73) for the game. Houser went for 13 points.

Ashville never trailed, jumping out to a 23-14 lead by the end of the first quarter and taking a 38-22 advantage into halftime.

Pisgah never got within single digits in the second half, and the Bulldogs led by as many as 26 points.

The strong start carried Ashville throughout the game.

“That’s everything,” Beason said. “We’ve been (to regional) a lot, and usually we’re on the receiving end of that. But this is a different group.

“We attack. We’ve been on our heels so much coming over here trying to defend what everybody else does instead of worrying about ourselves.

“This year, we decided we’re going to worry about ourselves.”

Ashville is making its eighth trip to JSU in school history, but this is just the second title game it has made. In 2007, Ashville beat Locust Fork in the 4A semifinals before losing to DAR in the championship.

All attention now turns to Holly Pond.

“We just seen them for the first time,” said Beason, referring to the Broncos’ 41-34 win over Piedmont earlier Thursday. “They’re tall like us, can shoot the three and they’re fast and get after it.

“I hope we can bring our game like we brought it today.”